As I was trudging through the snow this very evening, reader, I happened to see a small group of people, primarily children, crowded around a most beautiful sight. I did stop and stare for a moment, I will admit, with my head tilted in a very un-adult manner, and I cannot imagine how exactly I managed to forget the heavy burdens in my arms.
It was a simple Christmas tree, nothing of great wonder, but somehow different none the less.
Bedecked with the most lovingly made decorations, it was; each bauble, each garland, and every last one of the small candles had been placed with intricate care, and the angel bobbed atop its twiggy crown, rocked by the frigid winter gale. Little dolls and figures peeked from behind needle-like leaves, and – perhaps it was the multitude of tin figurines weighing down the branches – it seemed to emit an ethereal glow, reflected from a nearby street lamp.
And beneath it! Oh, reader, how to tell you of the wonder I beheld? And why had such a sight not struck me as such a wonderful thing before then? There, about the table upon which sat the tree itself, were boxes and boxes and bundles and gifts tied with ribbon, all with their own package of love and caring hidden just beyond the eye’s field of vision. The children smiled and gave each other hastily wrapped gifts, and then unwrapped them in delight – There were little drums, and tin men made from spoons, paint sets and pencils, wooden horses carved and painted lovingly by the men, and boxes of expensive make-up... The children crowed and rushed to show others of their gain, and I was simply astounded.
Why did this strike me now? How was this any different from any of the other Christmases – From the wonderful adventures I had had as a child, when I was rosy cheeked and excitable and irresponsible, and did not yet hold the mask of adulthood?
When I did come to my senses I left, quickly and silently as I had come, vanishing into the shadows where the lamps could not reach. The gathering of wondrous people, those happy people, perhaps never knew I had been there.
That night, as I lay in my bed, staring out over my balcony and onto the rooftops of the rich district... Reader, I recalled my own childhood, and wondered at how I had changed. It is that most dreadful of hours that I sank into, that moment when you realise that all you have done, all you have worked for, has gone to waste – there is no pleasure in your riches any longer, and there is no more delight to be seen in the future, for you have seen it all, and when you have seen everything, you have nothing more to see. Nothing more to look forward to.
Worse, there is no tangible solution to this. With all possibilities leading to one end, I came to accept it. This would be a lonely Christmas, and I would seriously regret my life that next morning.
And... Why, as I was drifting to sleep in my huge, comfortable bed that held no real warmth... I daresay I saw something glimmer beyond what I could see.
But I was asleep before I could contemplate it.
Perhaps I should have known something extraordinary would happen – After all, nothing ever did, nor ever will catch my attention quite like that tree on a table in the snow. But even if I had guessed that something was different... Oh, how would I have known what would truly happen? When I awoke it took me several moments to clear my head and to realise I was not where I had been before. Around me clouded the heavy scent of pine and needle, and water-rich soil, and I was disgruntled by the awkward prickling that teased at the skin on my back. Something cold and smooth brushed against my hand, and I opened my eyes only to find myself staring at my own reflection.
The gigantic bauble swung gently in the breeze, and large snowflakes drifted and caught themselves on the huge tree needles. I could do naught but stare; surely I was dreaming, or had fallen into some sort of fantasy instilled by the cold and my strange obsession with such a common sight. There was the tinny sound of bells being tossed somewhere around me, but I ignored it, instead crawling further to the end of the branch, staring out at the very scene I had left but a half hour ago. I wrapped my now tiny hand about a tiny handful of needles and leaned out a little further, watching the snow drift over whispering sheets of wrapping paper, long since left behind by the group of people I’d seen before. Hanging from a twig below where I lay, I was surprised to spot a young man swinging dolefully from gold thread attached to his tall silver hat.
“Good evening,” I called. I may have been bewildered, but heaven forbid, I refused to take leave of my manners. To do so would call for forfeiting my status as lord of my province, and this was what I had always worked for.
The silver man did little but grunt in reply. For this I could hardly blame him; the gentleman was, evidently, uncomfortable with his position so high above the ground.
“Perhaps you might require assistance?” I called, a little louder this time. My sleeping cap drifted down past my nose and was caught by the wind, drifting away among flurries of snow and, apparently, my sense of reason.
“By Gods!” he cried, swinging sharply in a sudden gust of wind, but beyond this point he kept his silver mouth shut as I clung to my twig and pondered. A massive piece of candy – I recognised it as what was called a “Candy Cane” by the poorer youth of the city – swung with the branch from which it hung, and so I lifted the thing from its perch and lowered the hooked end to the Tin Man, my hands sticking to the frozen candy.
“Thank you!” he howled, before he scrambled up the twisted candy and came to rest beside me.
He would have made a handsome fellow, had he been made from fresh and blood rather than tin, but he had a certain human, jovial look about him which I took a liking to almost instantly. His silver eyes, rather disconcerting to look at, stared at me with just as much astonishment as I stared at him.
“Why!” he exclaimed, eyes wide. “You must be ill! Where is your shine, my dear fellow?”
“My... shine?” I replied, voice heavy with doubt. Perhaps I was not the only one who had lost my sense of reason. My newfound friend merely looked upon me in horror, and then reached for my hand, scrambling with the metallic scrape of tin upon bark. When he touched my skin, however, he sat back down in rather much of a hurry.
“My friend,” he said, slowly, as though informing me of something extremely grave. “You have a most terrible temperature.”
Of course, this, for a moment, registered great alarm; perhaps this was why I was having such an odd dream, afterall. A new round of flu had downed many people in the past year. This concern vanished, however, when I registered the temperature of my new companion’s skin (Or tin, rather) in return.
“Why, I’m not hot! You’re frigid!” I laughed, and e looked startled for a moment, before an expression of pure surprise pulled at his face.
“I see!” he laughed, suddenly. “You are just like the Big Ones!”